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Commission votes for creation of airport authority

Washington County Commissioners voted unanimously to join their fellow airport owners in supporting the development of a Tri-Cities Regional Airport Authority.
“The airport does not (currently) have a separate existence from its owners,” Tri-Cities Airport Executive Director Patrick Wilson said during the Nov. 28 meeting.
Though a governing body appointed by its six owners and known as the airport commission was created in 1934, the Tri-Cities Regional Airport continues to operate as an unincorporated joint venture between Washington County, Sullivan County, Johnson City, Kingsport, Bristol, and Bristol, Va.
All of the state’s remaining commercial service airports in Memphis, Jackson, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga are operated as airport authorities.
According to Wilson, the biggest advantage to establishing an airport authority would be the elimination of owners’ liability from death or injury as a result of a catastrophic event or a simple slip-and-fall accident, and other claims.
In addition, an authority would permit more efficient operation of the airport, including competing for and securing federal grants. New bond issues would be the responsibility and liability of an authority, not the cities and counties who had to carry them in the past.
“Everything we can do to make the operations more effective will also help attract airlines,” Wilson said.
If created, the airport authority’s structure would be similar to the current airport commission. The authority would not have the power to levy taxes, and authority board members would not be compensated.
Each city and county would continue to appoint the same number of commissioners to an airport authority using the current method and term of appointment. Washington County appoints three members and determines how long each serves.
If the airport authority were to ever be dissolved, the property would return to the city and county owners, minus debts and repayment obligations.
Commissioner Joe Grandy made the motion to support the resolution, which was seconded by Commissioner Lee Chase.
With Washington County’s buy-in, the Tri-Cities Airport Commission will now make application to the Tennessee Secretary of State for a certificate of incorporation for the Tri-Cities Regional Airport Authority.